Tag Archives: kurdistan

Sex Industry Apologist #2, and other zines

I launched my new zine Sex Industry Apologist #2 at Sticky Institute a week and a half ago, as part of their Paper City zine festival. A whole bunch of people crammed into the shop and I read an excerpt from Taking Ideology To The Streets before handing over to a panel of local sex workers, including members of the Scarlet Alliance and Vixen Collective. An audio recording of the event might show up on the internet in a while.


picture from Sticky Institute

The zine includes a couple recent articles I published online, as well as background on sex work and feminism in the UK, with a focus on the effects of the Swedish model and ‘end demand’ approaches. It has a few reviews of sex work themes in films, books, and theatre, and a quick guide to spotting media bullshit. It’s also illustrated by the very talented Kazimir Lee Iskander.

Also currently available is the first issue of Sex Industry Apologist, which was originally published in early 2010. It kicks off with my essay Belle De Jour Is The New Pretty Woman, before sharing a bunch of reflections on harm reduction, feminism, and the media, all from my perspective as a former staff member at a sex work project. It also includes a list of resources on various issues related to sex work.

For ordering info, see jinxremoving dot org.

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If Destroyed Still True #6: Iraqi Kurdistan edition

I’ve been to ten or so countries since 2011 began. When people ask, I recite the list, but there’s one place that cancels out all the others. Their eyebrows shoot up when they hear the name. “Iraq! What was Iraq like?”

I have trouble answering this question. I don’t know what exactly they want to hear about, and maybe they don’t know either. I can’t fit all my experiences into a sentence. I think about the mountains and the call to prayer and the food. I think about walking in Dohuk at night, about getting lost in the park in Erbil, about the goatherds in the Zagros mountains, about the central square in Sulaimany, about the checkpoint in Kirkuk, about how my senses sharpened when we realised we needed to get out of that car, about the kindness of the family that hosted me, about the protests and about the friend who I feared might be dead.

Usually I just say “It was good”, or sometimes “It was mostly good.”

So I wrote If Destroyed Still True #6: Iraqi Kurdistan edition. It tells of hitch-hiking experiences good and bad, encounters with Kurdish and American soldiers, the kindness of strangers, being stranded, death threats, and the demonstrations in the region that have been largely unreported in the western press. At 28 A5 pages it’s the longest issue I’ve produced. It’s entirely handwritten, but fear not! My handwriting has frequently been mistaken for a font.

“sometimes charming, sometimes terrifying” – Sticky Institute

“has something to say and is perfectly astute in saying it. A must read” – Fulsome Prism

“beautiful, thoughtful, a testimony of feelings felt and questions asked” – Said The Gramophone

If Destroyed Still True #6: Iraqi Kurdistan edition
review in Fahrenheit C3100 podcast · review by Said The Gramophone

If you’d like a copy, visit jinxremoving dot org for information on how to order; and if you feel like telling other people about the zine, I won’t mind at all. Thanks for reading.

Everywhere and all over

I spent two extra days in Kurdistan because I turned up at Sulaimaniyah airport on time for my flight to Stockholm and the airport staff didn’t know anything about it. This turned out to be because Air Sweden had changed the departure airport to Erbil, two hours away, without bothering to let me know. I was now overstaying my visa. I stayed with an activist friend and his family. I didn’t sleep well at night because I was in the room that he normally slept in and he had received death threats. I didn’t bother to mention it because I had only two nights to worry about a prospective case of mistaken identity whereas he had to deal with it every night. They knew where he lived.

Finally in Stockholm, I had to quickly come to terms with all the snow and the fact that things were super-expensive. And then on to Berlin for half a day, too tired and in a hurry to bother stating that it felt weird to be back. My home from mid-February to mid-March was Leipzig, where I was looking after a cat while its owner was travelling.

I was in a neighbourhood not far east of the city centre. A few times a week I’d head down to the Turkish shops on Eisenbahnstraße to buy flatbread and yoghurt, which I’d eat with my date syrup from Amedi in Kurdistan. I didn’t go out much at all my first week, I was just glad to have some space to myself. I followed the protests in Sulaimaniyah closely, worrying about my friend’s safety.

I found myself narrating the cat’s every move. I couldn’t help myself. “Stretchycat!” I’d crow whenever he awoke from slumber and stiffly attempted to straighten himself out.

John from Belfast came to visit. We went out to Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, allegedly Leipzig’s most happening street, on a Saturday afternoon. The ghost town effect lacked only tumbleweed. That night we got drunk in a cheap smoky pub called Dolly Dimple. “Maybe it’s a stealth gay bar,” I said hopefully, watching the heavily tattooed girl dancing with female friends to nineties dance music. “I don’t think so,” said John, ever the realist. I requested The Key, The Secret by Urban Cookie Collective and the DJ agreed instantly. I drank a lot of wine. “Maybe he’s a nazi,” I said to John when a shaven-headed boy showed up with a dubious smile. “You think everyone is a nazi,” said John. I attempted to chat up the heavily tattooed girl for him. “Du bist sehr schön,” I explained, harking back to Blur lyrics rather than my two and a half years of German classes.

I allegedly turned into a troll on the way home. “You just don’t understand,” I wailed to John, weaving from side to side, “I hate EVERYTHING.” I couldn’t find the way back to the flat even though we were close, and John stopped a helpful passerby for directions. “Yes but what is there to do in Leipzig anyway?” I demanded to know. “Everything,” said the poor stranger after a bewildered pause. I don’t remember any of this. I am sorry for being a troll.

After John went back to Belfast I developed a social life. I met New Friend Andre and New Friend Ursula and went for VoKü with them, got a free haircut, took a day trip to Dresden with its tobacco mosque, attended house parties with cheap bars. I realised there were indeed things to do in Leipzig. If I were to move to Leipzig properly in the future, I’d already have good foundations for a life there.

I knew that one reason why I thought of my time in Berlin as artificial was that one of its main features had been a relationship that turned out to mean different things to each party. But besides that, it was artificial because it was too easy. If you move to Berlin everyone will be jealous of you. Everyone will tell you that you’ll love it. “Berlin is so you,” they’ll say. It’s not as if you won’t like it when you get there, but the experience will already have been scripted for you to some extent. As an English-speaking expat I’d lived in a bubble where I didn’t need to use German beyond the most basic of transactions, and few of the people I ever hung out with were German and in a way we could have been anywhere. Leipzig was different. Its low immigrant quotient was disappointing in the sense of less multiculturalism – beyond Eisenbahnstraße there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of scope – but at least I was spending time with locals and I felt more conscious of being in Germany.

The legacy of the GDR had not entirely faded. “These West Germans,” said one of my friends, “they’ll see apple trees and they’ll still go to the supermarket and pay money for apples. Us East Germans will just pick them.” I learned about the antideutsch people and Kamal K, the Iraqi man who had been murdered in the city centre. I went to the free museum to learn about life before and after the wall.

I watched Anita – Tänze des Lasters. It was in German. There were a few parts I didn’t understand but I got the overall gist and even enjoyed the film. I went for vegan kebabs at Vleischerei.

There comes a time in every place I go when I’m surprised that it’s almost over. But I have become used to saying goodbye. And anyway I will be back to look after Stretchycat in the summer.

Then Vienna, Istanbul, Kandy, and now Kuala Lumpur. I was last here in 1999. I didn’t last 24 hours back then. Cockroach Stuart and I gave up on it and took the first train we could find to anywhere, which turned out to be Penang.

Heading for Australia, crossing time zones in short bursts. Every so often, especially as my expenditure currently outweighs my income, I find myself wondering what I am doing. How did it come to this?

On my first night I stood on Jeffrey’s tenth-floor balcony. I could see the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower in the centre of the city. I could also see a cluster of lights shaped like a lassoo or a speech bubble, glittering in the sky above a tower block. What kind of futuristic craziness was this? But it was Genting, Malaysia’s Las Vegas, a distant town in the hills, not a projection in the air at all.

Pictures of Kurdistan


Lake Dukan, the largest in Iraqi Kurdistan. There was no one else around


Sulaymaniyah and its surroundings


Cave in the Zagros mountains

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